Like Seeta aur Geeta, Bobby was something I read about but thought I'd never get to see, as neither my local video store nor the Indian grocery store had it. But during a quick stop at the latter on Saturday, while looking over other shoppers' heads at the Hindi shelves, scanning for Shaadi se Pehle, which is mysteriously always out, lo and behold! Another classic and my education continues. I consider both of these finds auspicious, and I can't wait to find out what other older gems he has for me.
Anyhoo, you know a movie is going to be fantastic when you get to say "Woah, dancing on the ceiling!",
it has a young Farida Jalal with a really creepy doll,
the hero's house looks like...um...a magical mystery tour through several previous centuries of furnishings and architecture (why do Bollywood's rich families always have such gigantic main rooms, especially with grand staircases? Is this an ideal house form in India? I can see how it's good for parties, dance scenes, and weddings. Maybe Hollywood has a lot of these too and I just don't notice them anymore),
his dorm room has posters of Hair and Gandhi, which could fit right in today,
love blooms in a library,
and there's a Mrs. Robinson-style seductress on the loose, who, according to my subtitles, was classy enough not to make a joke about Rishi and the what he's about to do to those candles.
Despite reading about it in a few different places, I had significantly misunderstood the basic plot of Bobby, so the whole thing was a bit of a surprise and had a more hopeful feel than what I had been expecting. I think being so removed from the context of this film - India in the 1970s, that is - means that any real significance it had went right over my head. Fortunately I watched this with a grad student from Mumbai, and he was nice enough to share his thoughts on whether the obstacles to the romance raised by the protagonists' youth, class differences, and lack of parental approval would have been resonant to audiences at the time. Bobby's insistence that she was a "21st-century girl" raised some interesting questions about what being "modern" means (or meant in 1973, anyway) and whether it can be maintained
alongside more traditional values and behaviors, in her culture or any other. I'm not sure Bobby answered all of these questions, at least not clearly (kind of like how I wasn't sure what exactly Karan Johar was trying to say about infidelity and parenting in KANK). Bobby and Raja certainly caused a lot of trouble and heartache for the people who loved them, so maybe the point was that change is painful even when it's well-intentioned. And of course the story stops before the next immediate phase of their lives begins - he would go to university and she would go back to high school - and maybe the leisure of summer let their relationship bloom (or explode, depending on your point of view) the way it did. How would it fare in the more constrained and distracting world of school or work? We'll never know. Ordinarily I don't like endings that are the least bit unfinished, but maybe it's best to just leave them like that, holding hands with their fathers on a summer day, frozen at a giddy, happy, and dramatic stage of things.
As a parting thought:
how you doin'?
Update to post (January 7, 2007): prompted by thoughtful comments from the Buddha Smiled and in Filmi Geek's post on Bobby, I wanted to add in my questions about how this movie was received when it came out. Like Filmi Geek, I watched this movie out of its place in history, so when the Delhi-ite (that's not the right term, is it, but it will do for now) who runs the shop where I rented this started to tell me about how popular it had been and the astronomical ticket prices it commanded and how people bunked school to see it ("If someone was absent, the teacher did not even need to ask his friends where he was"), I asked him if it had been at all controversial. He looked surprised by my question and said not at all. But like TBS said, that seems unlikely to me, given the young age and religious differences of the couple - and especialy their disregard for their parents. Who else has thoughts to add?